Indonesian radicals burn effigies of Miss World backers during protest

JAKARTA - Chanting Islamic radicals in Indonesia burnt effigies of Miss World beauty pageant organisers and branded them "infidels" on Friday during an angry protest two days before the show starts.

The past week has seen hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets, while hardliners, rights groups and even a government minister have united to express outrage at the decision to host the contest in the Muslim-majority country.

On Friday hundreds of hardliners in traditional Islamic skullcaps and robes, accompanied by a handful of women in headscarves, marched through the capital Jakarta, and protests erupted in other parts of the sprawling archipelago.

The 700-strong crowd in the capital gathered at the head office of MNC media group, which will broadcast the show and is the local organiser, brandishing banners reading: "From infidels, by infidels, to ruin Indonesia."

Some demonstrators used red spray paint to write "pimp's office" on the building, which was surrounded by barbed wire and heavily guarded by the police.

Chanting in Arabic, the crowd staged a mock trial of MNC chief Hary Tanoesoedibjo and I Made Mangku Pastika, governor of resort island Bali where the show opens on Sunday, and burnt straw effigies of the pair.

"We will fight until the last drop of our blood is spilled," one protester shouted to the chanting crowd.

Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets on Friday in other major cities across Indonesia, including Bandung on the main island of Java, Medan on Sumatra island, and Banjarmasin on Indonesian Borneo.

Ms Nana Putra, from MNC and the head of the local Miss World organising committee, defended the contest, saying it did not run counter to Indonesian Muslim culture.

"We are doing everything according to local norms," she said, adding that the protests sent a bad image of Indonesia to the world.

More than 120 Miss World contests have already arrived for the contest.

While there is little danger of protests in Hindu-majority Bali, hardliners have vowed to stage huge demonstrations when the final takes place outside Jakarta on Sept 28.

Anger has been mounting despite an attempt by the British-based organisers to appease radicals by dropping the famed bikini round from the contest this year, with contestants instead set to wear more conservative sarongs.

A vocal hardline fringe has succeeded in getting events cancelled in the past.

Last year, pop sensation Lady Gaga axed a concert after hardliners threatened to burn down the venue and criticised her for wearing only "a bra and panties".